January 22, 2013
Loose Id Paperbacks
Protectorate Maj. Eve Cartwright has just received the worst assignment of her military career—pose as an Ankharan nitara, a submissive sex slave, in order to seduce and capture rebel leader Michael Taggart. Not only do her superiors expect her to whore herself to achieve her goal, but they seem to be taking a perverse pleasure in the very idea of it. General Mokollik in particular sees this assignment as a way to take Eve down a peg or two. Eve, though, has her own agenda, one that will put her and Taggart in very close contact, but that might not result in exactly what the Protectorate had in mind.
In all her years as an investigator with the Protectorate Security Force, Eve had worn many covers. She’d posed as an assassin, a smuggler, a pirate, a diplomat, a courier, assorted grungy peasant types, and even royalty. She’d cheated, lied, manipulated, and stolen for the greater good, but she had never whored for her cause.
It looked like that was about to change.
“Posing as an Ankharan nitara will put you in very close contact with your subject.”
Colonel Burton seemed oblivious to the double entendre in that sentence, but then she supposed it could be a self-defense mechanism. She couldn’t picture him wanting to have sex on the brain while he informed one of his officers she’d be posing as a sex slave during her next undercover assignment.
She sat in the interview chamber at the PSF Headquarters, Sector 12 Prime, wondering what the hell she’d gotten herself into and why the hell she’d agreed to it. Not that she’d had much choice, but somehow that thought didn’t lend her the amount of comfort she supposed it should.
“And may I ask who the subject will be? Since I’ll be in such close contact with him, after all.” She kept her voice neutral, but her mind raced. There were close to a dozen men at the top of the Protectorate’s high suspicion list, and any one of them would be worth the PSF’s while to bait into this particular trap.
“At this moment we believe our efforts will be best spent investigating a supposed free trader. Michael Taggart.”
Eve froze. “Taggart?”
Burton nodded. “I presume you’ve heard of him.”
Eve could barely hear anything over the pounding of her heart.
“Everyone has,” she finally said as she forced her grip to relax on the arms of her chair. “He’s number one on the HS list. They’ve designed training exercises around his fighting style.”
“Precisely. He’s a threat, but one against whom we’ve had no proof. Until now.” He referred back to his computer screen. “Your immediate goal is to access the computer systems on Taggart’s ship and plant the false data about the Rauka prison. It’s all on the chip I’ve given you, cleverly concealed to appear as a communication from known rebel leaderRose Grant. We’ve digitally replicated her image and linked it to a sonically mirrored voice recording. The technicians who developed it have assured us that it will be impossible to detect as forgery.”
“With all due respect, sir,” Eve managed, hoping the colonel wouldn’t guess how little respect she really felt was due him at that moment, “I fail to see why such a plant couldn’t be accomplished by a tech at a fuel station or something. It seems to me that the potentially long-term mission you’re talking about might be something more than strictly necessary.”
Burton blinked like a fruit bat in fluorescent lights. “Well…ahem…the…uh…the long-term goal, of course, is to collect sufficient evidence against Captain Taggart to warrant an arrest on grounds of treaty violation, conspiracy to commit treason, and lending aid to the rebellion.” He smoothed a glistening palm over his receding hairline. “Due to the sensitive nature of the mission, you’ll have to rely mainly on your own training and intelligence. The Protectorate can’t afford a nasty public relations backlash if this mission becomes common knowledge.”
Eve forced her initial reaction down and pursed her lips. “Which translates as, ‘You’re on your own, so don’t expect any support.’ Correct?”
Colonel Burton frowned. “I wouldn’t put it that way.”
“Oh. So I’ll have backup, equipment, and supplies as appropriate to someone of my rank on a covert op?”
“This is not an ordinary operation, Major.” Eve watched as the man all but squirmed in his seat. “We’re talking about some delicate situations here.”
“We’ve tried to accommodate your cover to make you as comfortable as possible, even basing it on your own name,” Burton said after a brief, awkward silence. “Officially you’ll be Evenaril, which is a traditional Ankharan name meaning ‘soft welcome.’”
He paused, blinked down at the terminal he was reading from, and coughed. He gave a discreet tug at his collar before continuing. “Apparently that’s a name that’s been given to nitarai in the past, though it’s not currently considered to be in vogue. You’ll be known by everyone other than the princeling himself as his newest nitara, recently released from your training by the temple mistresses. Prince Jaru knows what’s going on and will see you’re treated according to Protectorate customs of citizen rights until such time as you leave his custody.”
“And then?” It felt a little like shooting fish in a barrel, but Eve couldn’t resist taunting him, just to see if he had any real concept of the assignment he was sending her on. “You’ve just told me I’m going to be posing as a sex slave on a planet so culturally removed from the rest of federated space that it barely made it into the Protectorate. So I’m supposed to not worry what’s going to happen to me when I do ‘leave his custody’?”
Colonel Burton shifted in his seat. “Yes, well, ahem.” He cleared his throat. “Once you leave the palace, you’ll be considered to be deep undercover, so of course, contact between you and other representatives of the PSF will be strictly prohibited. Anything of the sort could potentially compromise the mission.”
“Unlike the whole ‘become a piece of property, allow myself to be given as a gift, and then spend however much time the PSF sees fit to order serving as a sex slave to a man who’s basically a space pirate and is suspected to be a rebel conspirator’ thing. Which apparently is the mission.”
She just wanted to make sure they were clear there.
Burton crossed his arms over his chest, tucked in his chin, and shrugged. “Infiltrating Taggart’s operation is crucial to preventing the rebel assault on Rauka that we believe is being planned. Lives may be at stake here, Major Cartwright.”
“Forgive my lack of a gung-ho spirit, Colonel,” she said, her eyes narrowing so far she was surprised she could still see, “but I’m the one who’s going to be saving those lives by giving blowjobs to a criminal. You want me to do a little happy dance?”
The colonel’s face turned a flagrant shade of puce, his mouth flapped open and shut like a fish, and he stuttered for a full thirty seconds before he managed to lodge his protest. “Major!” He looked about as shocked as an old virgin at a public orgy. “I see no cause for your crudity. This is a serious military exercise, and of course we at Security Force Command expect you to conduct yourself in a manner suited to your rank and affiliation.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll be sure to salute on my downstrokes.” Eve shoved herself out of her chair and gave the little creep a sardonic salute on her way to the door.
She kept her expression blank all the way back to her quarters, and even then she carefully scanned for surveillance and disposed of the two tiny bugs as they deserved. In the toilet.
Only then did she collapse back onto her bunk and groan.
She wondered what the PSF would have been prepared to do next in its quest to force her to resign her commission. Short of actually selling her to sex traders, she couldn’t think of a lower blow, not that this sort of thing surprised her anymore. The Protectorate had lost its ability to surprise her, and wasn’t that a sad statement?
She thought about her fail-safe, the last, secret option she’d been hoping never to have to use. Her loyalty to her employers had always been absolute, but where was the reciprocation? She had followed orders that had made her squirm, ones that had raised the hair on her arms, then ones that had turned her stomach. How much more was she supposed to take? Even with the last six months of her life leading her here, this assignment felt a lot like the Powers’ way of introducing her to a turning point in her life. Via an armored field boot to her backside. She hadn’t been ready for this, but it looked like the Powers didn’t care. It was time to make a few calls and see if she could salvage something worthwhile out of this nightmare assignment.
Still scowling, she took a deep breath and blew it out through pursed lips. Lying around wouldn’t accomplish anything. She rose from her bunk and dropped to her knees to reach for the slim, silver case hidden in the slot she’d made beneath the bed frame. “Never say die,” she muttered, popping open the catches to lift the narrow lid and gaze on the tiny black compuchip inside. “And for damned sure never say uncle.”